I can't eat that!
How many times have you heard someone say "I can't eat that"?
How many times have you said it yourself?
Of course, you could eat it. There' nothing physically stopping you, so why would we tell ourselves that we can't have something when we can?
Why do we do say "I can't eat that!"?
'I can't eat that' is one of the most destructive things we tell ourselves when losing weight.
It leads to us feeling like we're missing out which is a surefire way to feel deprived. It begins with the authentic desire for our body to be healthy and fit. In order to stick to our goal we create rules about what we can and 'can't' eat.
As you may know from my previous blog there are different parts of the brain at work when we do this.
One part of the mind makes the rule to follow the diet, this is the logical part of the brain, or your conscious mind. Its focus is on the sensible long-term benefits of sticking to the rule. The more emotional part of the mind, which we'll call your unconscious mind, focuses on the on the here and now. As a result, it responds to the rule as if it were being deprived.
Because not all parts of the mind are agreed on the rule about what to eat, a conflict ensues.
An inner conflict
I'll explain how this disagreement plays out making reference to Eric Berne's ego states from Transactional Analysis.
Berne devised the concept of ''ego states to help explain how we are made up and how we relate to others (you can find a comprehensive overview here). They categorise the ways we think, feel and behave and are called Parent, Adult, and Child.
Berne described how the ego states interact with each other. He explained that if a transaction starts from a parent ego state it is likely to elicit a child ego state response and vice versa.
When we use our parent ego state to tell ourselves "I can't eat that", we create a confining rule that takes away our choice and freedom. It doesn’t feel good to be confined by that artificial rule. The mind reacts to the feeling of that rule from a child ego state and desires to change the feeling.
It plays out like this:
This is a pretty limited approach to feeling “better”. The conflict over trying to do the right thing by the standard of the parent ego state and then responding from the rebellious child ego state ends up creating emotional chaos.
Trying to make changes in our food habits and our body are challenging enough. Trying to make changes with a thought process or emotional logic that sabotages our efforts makes it even harder.
How do I change it?
A helpful approach is to pursue your goal from the more objective adult ego state. A decision or instruction that comes from the adult ego state is likely to be met with a response from the adult ego state.
The restrictive rule of:
"I can't eat that" becomes
"I can eat whatever I want and I accept if I eat more or if I eat unhealthy things my weight loss will slow or I'll gain"
There are no judgments in this situation, no feeling like the victim. Just an objective view of the situation. There are no good or bad decisions, just actions and consequences. This changes the feelings you experience from deprivation and judgement to feelings of freedom of choice and this gives us a sense of control over our decisions.
When it comes to weight loss this results in a decision to either stick to our plan or make a calculated decision to deviate from it, accepting what that will mean.
Losing weight is hard enough. It becomes much easier to make changes in our body when our mind and emotions are all lined up working for us instead of against us.
The relationship with our body is one of the most significant ones we will have in our life. We only get one so it makes sense to spend the time making it an enjoyable and happy relationship.
Over to you
Have you ever told yourself "I can't eat that"?
How did you feel? Did it work?
What do tell yourself instead?
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